Pink

pink-girl_00040446When did it all begin, she would sometimes wonder.

When did she first realise she was a girl.

Was it in the toy store, when her father brought her a pretty baby doll and her brother a toy car?

Did the soft touch of lipstick and the rustle of dupatta whisper it to her?

Was it when her mother made her sit next to the hot burning stove while her brothers played cricket in the backyard?

Did the clock teach her with its insurmountable curfews?

Or was it much before that, in the blue of his covers and the pink of hers.

Prompt from 100 Word Challenge: Julia’s Place

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Taste of Home: A Flash Fiction

Prison Guard, Stockholm. Public domain photo.

Standing on the bridge, Gaurav cast a long look at the white expanse of deserted snow and the snow-capped mountains. There was no movement to be seen. Not even a stray leopard or a jumping goat met his eyes. It was like the terrain itself had frozen. Somewhere across the snow-white horizon was Pakistan, but all was quiet on the border today.

His breaths rose like hot mist in front of his eyes. Guard duty at the military outpost on Siachen Glacier was a lonely job.

He looked at his watch – five more minutes before his turn ended, and the next soldier took over. Right at six his reliever arrived. “They are making malpua in the kitchens”, he said.

Gaurav hurriedly took off. Malpua was his favourite dessert. As he ran towards the mess hall he remembered how as a kid he would pester his mother to make it for him.

The mess hall was warm with hearty food and cheerful company. The cook slid a brown malpua glistening with golden syrup on his plate.

Gaurav took a bite and smiled to himself. He patted his pocket where lay the last letter from home: “…when you come home, we’ll find a  good match for you. Come home soon, son“. 

***

malpuaMalpua is an Indian dessert, similar to pancakes, and is eaten with syrup. It is one of my personal favourites. You can find the recipe here

Siachen Glacier is located in the northern part of Kashmir, between India and Pakistan, and the no-man’s-land of Siachen is 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above sea level. Military experts say the inhospitable climate and avalanche-prone terrain have claimed more lives than gunfire. Both countries agree on a need to demilitarise the glacier, but neither side wants to take the first step.(Source: HindustanTimes.com)

A Fire in a Small Town

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A fire in a small town is big news.

An incendiary blast of news and gossip. Who set it…an unattended fire…a gas leak…

It breaks the monotony of routine and shakes the town out of its slumber.

There has been so little to discuss, since the rape case ten years ago. The gossip had been unrelenting:

A young girl, wearing jeans, out alone at night without a male escort! She deserved it. Daughters like her taint the family name.

***

The newspapers would have a field day, she thought: Accused rapist burns to death. Police suspect arson. 

Word Count: 98

Prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-fields

Melting Ice: Flash Fiction

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The chill hung in the room like an unwanted guest. He slammed the wardrobe shut, and rummaged through the chest-of-drawers. He peered under the bed and banged his head on the bottom drawer.

“Ow!”

She ran into the room. “What happened?” she asked in a breathless query.

“This damned drawer —”

She gently rubbed the sore spot “What’re you looking for?”

“My wallet”.

“You could’ve just asked me”.

“You weren’t talking to me” he said. Echos of bitter words resonated from the past.

Outside a drop of icy-water dripped from the point of the thawing icicle.

“I’ll find it” she said.

Inspired by Prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields 

Growth Pangs: Flash Fiction

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Meg looked around the apparel store in dismay. Her mother tapped her foot impatiently, “Are you done deciding what you want?”

Yes that frilly pink dress from the kids section that is a size too small for me, and the light blue shirt from the ladies section that reaches my knee.

Her mother made a clicking noise and noticeably checked her watch. “Nothing here is to my style” Meg said, and marched out of the shop. Her mother followed her with a bewildered silence.

*

“Touching a boy can get your pregnant”, Elsa said confidentially.

“Nonsense”. Helen rolled her eyes.  Her confident proclamation followed: “It only happens when you kiss!”

*

In the family function Meg sat in a corner listening to the grown-ups talk. “Come play with us”, her cousins begged.

“You go. I will come in a minute” she shooed them away.

Her parents were talking about the war. “Why don’t the two presidents just shake hands and apologize?” Meg asked. It seemed like a sensible question.

The ladies tittered. “Why don’t you go out and play with your cousins?” her mother suggested.

Meg felt her cheeks redden. A surge of fury and humiliation coursed through her veins — “You never understand me!”

“Young lady, is that the way you talk to your elders?” her father’s voice was taut. “Go up to your room”.

As she stormed out, she heard her mother mutter to Aunt Rosa, “I really don’t know what’s come into her nowadays…”

She slammed the door of her room. Her eyes burning with unshed tears, she looked out from the window into the twilight yard where her young cousins played the childish games that no longer afforded her any joy.

*

Untouchable…yet Raped

She lay shivering on the cold hard ground. In the distance she could hear the sounds of her attackers laughing and walking away, till the sound of their footsteps died down. She got up, and wrapped her torn dress around her shaking shoulders. Silently she made her way home. She knew what the police and the judges would say, if she or any of her friends dared complain – no upper caste man will sully himself by raping an untouchable like her.

During the nine-year period between 1981-86 and 1995-97 a total of two lakh cases of atrocities on the scheduled castes were registered, which means on an average 3,000 cases of atrocities were committed on the scheduled castes annually – and these are only the ones that got reported. The breakup of atrocities for the year 1997 shows 504 cases of murder, 3,452 cases concerning grievously hurt people, 1,002 cases of rape, 384 cases of arson and 12,149 cases of other offences.

The Storm Within: Flash Fiction

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The raindrops reeked of redemption.

He had deserved it, she thought bitterly.

From the moment he had first dragged her into the dark scullery, he should have known this day would come. Like dark clouds amassing on the horizon foreshadowing the storm.

At first she had been distraught. She knew no one else in this country, had nowhere to go. And he knew it. Her helplessness emboldened him, and when he was done filling his stomach with the food she had cooked, he would drag her to the bed with sheets she had cleaned and force himself on her. The detergent smelled of betrayal.

The kitchen had only one window. Tied to the chair, he had begged. From the safety of her mask, she had watched him flail, till his last breath dissipated in the gas.

She dropped the rope on the wet street; the mask dangled from her hand.

The clouds part. A new future on the horizon.

Inspired by Flash! Friday Prompt

How To Break Someone’s Heart

The interiors of the coffee shop was warm and comfy. The conversations from the other tables – of teenage friends, business men…and lovers – created a happy drone of voices around us. The coffee in front of me is cold, like my heart. A numbness is spreading across me. You are looking outside the window. Maybe you already know the words I am choking on. getty_rm_photo_of_peeling_bandage A mad impulse seizes me – a desire to get this over with, for once and all. Like tearing a band-aid. You start off slow and then you peel it all off, in one hasty move, revealing the pink throbbing wound underneath.

I can’t do this anymore” I blurt out.

I think I see you wince slightly. Your shoulders hunch.

My eyes sting, but I can’t take my words back. I don’t want to.

I squeeze my eyes tightly. No tears.

I am sorry” I whisper.

It seems inadequate. I should probably say more. But I don’t know what, and so I remain silent.

The silence stretches on…

Finally, you look at me. A laconic smile plays on your lips – bitter but resigned. “I am too”.

The pain in your eyes stabs me like an ice-cold blade. I want to not care, and yet I do.

I know this was wrong. It was never going to work out. We were too different – you and I. Too headstrong. But it hurts all the same. There is a terrible, terrible blackness inside me.  A hole where you used to be, till I ripped you apart.

The repressed tears sting my eyes.

I get up and leave.

I don’t look back. c7a48f192556947849ad36feb5e7c85d

Standing outside in the cool, fresh air, I realize I am relived. It feels like for these past few weeks I had been carrying a burden around with me, and now I have finally dropped it. I feel lightheaded, and that’s when I realize that as much as this hurts, I am happy.

I hate the fact that I hurt you though. Despite all that passed I still care about you…a little too much. I berate myself for not being more tactful; more kind? Maybe I should have waited a little longer, tried a little harder – maybe I could have taught myself to love you, as much as you loved me.

Yet if you are going to break someone’s heart, is there a ‘good’ way to do it? Now or later, this way or that, it was going to be painful. Maybe this was better, to get it over quickly. I don’t know. I guess I never will.

I walk away from the cafe.

I hope you have a good life, away from me. I hope you are happy. 

Today’s Daily Prompt: Handle With Care

My Struggles With Brevity

I love to write.

I love to write a lot……Unfortunately.

I don’t remember how old I was when my mother, an English teacher, told me that I should always while writing answers in a literature paper take it for granted that the examiner knows nothing. Explain everything. Provide as much context as possible.

I don’t think even she realized the widespread repercussions her words would have, but since then my answers in the examinations, especially my literature paper, have just grown in size. The smallest answer I ever wrote for an English literature paper was three-quarters of an A4 size sheet! A close friend joked that if I had written the entire Shakespeare play verbatim in the answer sheet my answer would probably be shorter. It wasn’t even that big an exaggeration. For one exam, I remember taking 11 supplements or extra sheets, after finishing the initial 12-page booklet. I would probably have written more, but I was running a mild temperature  that day. The same friend joked, that next year our juniors could probably just bind my answer papers and read it instead of the textbook. It never hurt me however. In my final Literature exam at the end of high school, I wrote more than forty pages and scored 99 out of 100.

Verbosity has always been a loving friend to me. My essays in middle school used to be six-seven pages long, and I would only stop writing, once the final bell had rung, and my teacher had more often than not literally snatched the paper away from me. Writing till the last possible second is a habit I am yet to curb, during exams.

I remember one glorious day in tenth grade when all our lectures had been cancelled  due to some emergency teacher’s meeting, but unwilling to leave us all free for the rest of the day, our teacher had asked us to write a story on the topic ‘I wish I had wings…’ Unsurprisingly, no one in the class did…except me. When in the last period, our teacher came to collect the essays she found that no one had written anything, and the one who had was unwilling to give it. I had written ten pages, but I did not want to submit it yet. I told so to my teacher. Surprised, she urged me to tell her why. After a little pushing, I confessed that I had yet to finish my story….or to begin it one could also say. You see my plot was simple: a young village girl dreams of flying and on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus gifts her the ability to fly, and what she does after that. When my teacher came to collect the stories, I had only written till the part where she dreams of flying, and even Santa Claus’s grand entry was yet to be made. After I had explained this to my teacher, she was speechless for a second, and then groaned, “Archita, you shall be the death of me! Please, please don’t do something like this in your Board examination!” She was afraid I would waste so much time on that one question that I would not have enough time left to finish the rest of the paper. Despite her warning, my essay in my tenth board exams nearly reached twenty pages, but I made sure that I finished the rest of my paper beforehand. Yet this was the first time that I realized that as much as I loved my verbose style of writing with grandiose descriptions, brevity has its own charm.

Since then, I have trimmed my style a lot. I write my answers in bullet points, and try to be as concise as possible…at least in academic examinations. But at home with a pen and a sheet of blank paper in front of me – I run wild. My journals are filled with pages and pages of the day’s account in excruciatingly precise details (this year, I have already finished two 400 page journals. Last year, I used up 3 notebooks as my diaries). My ultimate dream is to write a diary entry so intricately detailed that when I open my journal, ten years from now, I can experience all that I am experienced a decade back with the same intensity that I felt then. Needless to say, I haven’t yet been successful in my attempt, but I am trying hard. I write in as much detail as Time and Memory would permit.

For me, words are the path to immortality. Maybe when I am 80 years old, I shall flip through the yellowed pages of my youth, and through the faded blue scribbles relive once again the forgotten past – laugh at the old jokes, chuckle at a daring prank, fondly remember forgotten friends, and for one moment someday the lines between the Past and the Present would blur. 

My verbosity is well known among my peer groups. My friends might tease me, but I am also pretty much in demand. Whenever someone has an important essay to write, they seek my advice. Sometimes before a literature exam, I have had to turn my phone off, so that I could ward off advice-seekers and study. For friends’ birthdays, I don’t have to waste a lot of time looking for the perfect gift. I usually give my friends a book (usually a personal favorite) with a personalized message inside. For some I might even write a poem, and those few scribbled lines alone often overshadow any extravagant gift anyone else might have bought 😛 On the last day of middle school, I was the one everyone wanted to have their slam books filled by. I remember, a girl with whom I had throughout my school life barely ever seen eye to eye with came up to me with her slam book, handed it to me, and said hesitatingly, “Write something good, ok?” 

Yet as much as I love verbosity, I do believe that brevity has its own utility. Sometimes the lesser you write, the better it is. I love reading and occasionally writing Flash Fiction.

For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

Earnest Hemingway’s six-word story, written as part of a bet, is according to me more poignant than dozens of thick volumes of tragedy taken together. It is one of my favourite works in literature. The story leaves you wanting more, like any good short story should. You yearn to know more about the individuals who published this notice, but you can’t, and that’s when your brain start filling in the blank space underneath the words. You imagine the pain, the angst of the dead child’s parents. You question yourself is the child really dead? Was it a miscarriage? An abortion? Was she kidnapped? You try to imagine the mother’s pain, the pale face of the father …and the story stays with you, because it has, through its brevity transcended the world of fiction and entered the sphere of reality.

Someday I would love to gain that much mastery over the elusive skill of brevity. But never at the cost of losing my verbose style!

Today’s Daily Prompt: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” — Blaise Pascal          Where do you fall on the brevity/verbosity spectrum?